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The secret to gaining more career bargaining power

If you've ever visited a country where bargaining is the norm, you learn very quickly that you have to be willing to walk away. If the salesman knows you really, truly want what he's selling, the price is going to be far greater than the price if he thinks he has to win you over. In your career having that ability to walk away gives you a tremendous advantage over those who can't. Here's why and how to get that ability.

Have a "Go to Hell" fund. Common Sense Millennial blogger, Kali Hawlk, advises Millennials (and really everyone else) to create a fund that will allow them, one day, to simply tell their bosses to, well, "go to Hell." This is a special savings account where you set aside money with the express goal of being able to use it should you ever really need to leave your job. In an interview on the website Stacking Benjamins, Hawlk clarified that she doesn't mean actually burning your bridges (always resign politely!) but rather, just be prepared should you need to walk out that door.
How this helps you negotiate: When you have that option to to walk out the door, you can be more confident in your requests. Your boss doesn't need to know you can walk away (because that sounds like a threat anyway), but you'll present your arguments in favor of a flexible schedule, or additional vacation, or a transfer to a more exciting team because you know that being turned down isn't the end of the world.

Cross train. Cross training is where you learn to do more than one job. Some managers require you to do this, but many don't. Do it anyway. Having the skills to do multiple jobs in a department increases your value.

How this helps you negotiate: Looking for a big raise? "I'm really good at my job!" just doesn't cut it very often. But if you have varied skills you can say, "I'm ready for a new challenge. I can take on X, Y, and Z, and with that increased responsibility, I think a 10 percent raise and a pay grade bump would be appropriate." That's a lot stronger than, "If you give me a raise, I'll learn how to do X, Y, and Z." Learn first. It increases your negotiating power.

Figure out what is important to the boss. Doing a good job is, of course, important for every boss. But different bosses have different quirks. One boss will see you as a slacker if you come in at 8:03 instead of at 7:59. Another thinks people with clean desks are better workers than those with messy desks. Some like people who take charge. Some like people who do what they are told. Figure out what your boss likes and do that.

LinkedIn CEO on making the right career connection 04:11
How this helps you negotiate:
Bosses should be judging you on your job performance alone, but they don't. By doing the little things that don't really matter to productivity, but do matter to your boss, you get a gold star on your forehead. And when you walk into a salary or benefits negotiation with that gold star on your forehead already, your position is strengthened -- even if you're going to ask for something the boss normally wouldn't like. Your boss that wants you there by 7:59 may be more likely to believe you when you say you'll be able to increase productivity by working from home on Wednesdays because he's never seen you come in even 5 minutes late.

Maintain your network. When you find an interesting article that references something your former boss would be interested in, email it. When you travel on business, go to lunch with former colleagues and friends from grad school. When you're called by a headhunter, even if you have no interest in a new job, be polite, and maintain contact.

How this helps you negotiate: This network gives you options. You're never starting at zero, trying to figure out who to talk with. When you have a big network of people in many companies, you know you could find something else if you needed to. So, again, this knowledge that you could pretty easily walk away from your current job, gives you that strength in negotiating with your boss.

Caution: Keep in mind that just because you have the money and the resources to walk away if you needed to, doesn't mean you should. It's only in a rare circumstance that you should walk without a new job or a clear plan for self employment. You should always be polite and you should always be reasonable. Don't ask for a wildly inflated salary or 20 weeks of vacation. Regardless of how well trained you are, the answer to such outlandish requests is going to be no, and you'll come off looking a little foolish.

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